While I can’t in good faith (heh) call myself a christian, certain traditions and ceremonies from my youth come whizzing back into my life on the Pope mobile and a cloud of thick incense.
I’ve always liked lent.
I like the idea of challenging yourself to do better for forty days and dedicating your struggle to a higher cause.
Fun fact: Yogis did this all the time.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna stands in tree pose (vriksasana, in picture above) for two years; one year on each leg.
Other ancient yogis have stared at the sun from sun-up to sun-down, going blind in the process to gain tapas. Some keep their arm over their heads at all times. Some become celibate. Some give up all possessions. Some fast. Some never cut their fingernails. (Those yogis, in my professional opinion, are the weirdos.)
The goal of these strange behaviors was to generate as much tapas as possible. Yogis believed that generating tapas, or internal fire, would cleanse the body. The cleansing (because earth dwellers are hella smelly) would bring them closer to god. With enough tapas, you were rewarded with a boon.
Arjuna accumulated two years of tapas dedicating his practice to Shiva. After two years, he’s gained enough tapas to earn a boon: his famous bow and arrows.
Another yogi, after spending years in meditation, gained so much tapas he physically fought the gods to get an annoying king into heaven (they didn’t want him because, again, humans smell like old gym socks) and then turned him into a constellation. Another shot straight up into heaven. One acquired the most magical staff in the world.
I feel like people are drawn to yoga because they want to better themselves in some way.
They’re tapas seekers, like every yogi there ever was.
They’re people who are trying to experience more, live more.
To a yogi, lent is a tapas play time. What happens when you take something away? How do you react? Can you stick with it? Does it totally distort your perception or is it really not that big of a deal? How strong is the feeling of need? How strong is the feeling of willpower?
In yogi lent, you sit, watch, and collect tapas in your boon account.